Buildings, Other Energy Saving Devices and Top Tips

This page contains:

  • Other energy saving devices relating to home and living, that do not fit easily into any of the other headings e.g. Innovative and eye catching homes especially designed with sustainability, comfort and functionality in mind; Sunpipes; Natural ventilation systems; and the Eydon Kettle.
  • The Top Tips section contains all past items from the Home Page that are related to this heading; especially those related to design & construction problems found in modern buildings compared with older buildings that were built both to last and for ease of management!

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Bright and clever ideas

WooWoo the Waterless Toilet

These Kazubaloo toilets not only need no water; but they do not need any chemicals; nor do they need any source of power, other than a light breeze across the top of the air-chimney. They are robustly made of metal and wood; and are ideal for occasional or low use e.g. they have been sited discretely in large gardens and parks open to the public, golf courses, allotments, camp sites and would be great for many outdoor education sites. A brilliant idea that works!

The alternative tumble dryer

This means that there is no need to even turn on the central heating to dry clothes, avoid filling the house with damp air.

The perfectly sustainable tumble dryer has no need for hydrocarbon nor nuclear power

This well tried and tested design does the job even in the worst of weather using only wind energy, and has been used both for family homes and hotels.

Check out the Shieling Dryers from the Isle of Mull at (www.ShielingDryers.co.uk. I have seen them in action on a really exposed campsite, but they will also work in even a small garden, provided you can make use of the wind!

Uniquely stylish fires that have to be seen to be believed!

Beautiful, innovative, stylish and very French, wood burning fires can now be supplied and fitted by a UK company. They could be part of a new build or conversion; but are uniquely suited for retro-fitting to a modern house that has been built without a chimney, or relies totally on gas or electricity for its heating. These Focus fires imported by Diligence International Ltd. are really unique and will add style as well as functional warmth to any room.

Whole timber use in Building

Inwood Developments Ltd. - listed on the right - uses good, English grown hardwood timber from our deciduous woodlands. Their buildings sport a full range of traditional timber joints - none of these little spiked metal plates that are banged over the ends of two pieces of structural wood and are liable ping off if shaken or rusted. Their website is well worth a visit, if only to see the beautiful woodwork of the projects they have completed.

Oakwrights

Huf Haus produces a lovely range of modern looking spacious light houses that somehow fit visually very well with the surrounding landscape. It specializes in modern post and beam framed timber houses, using mature European timber. They are enervating, prepacked kit homes of all sizes made with the customer's input to the design; that are erected by the company's own workforce in any european country.

Control your house from your Laptop!

Another company specializes in remote controls for housing. This something of interest for: those who have to travel widely; those who love the integration of modern technology and IT; and those who can be relied up to forget to turn the heating down to Background level before they leave the house! It's all very clever stuff.

Sunpipes

These sit snugly in your roofing material, be it a flat roof or tiles/slates on a pitched roof. A clear dome has facets to catch the sunlight. This light passes down a tube that can be bent to enter the ceiling of a room or corridor at the required angle. Even on a cloudy winter's day such a tube can provide as much light as an 88W light bulb and under summer sun this can rise to 400W. One can even cut off the base of the installation to avoid light escaping after dark; or perhaps to dim the light of a full summer's day!

Natural Ventilation Systems

These too sit snugly in your roofing material and may be combined with the Sunpipes. On a basal level these work because hot air in the building rises and cooler air from outside is passively sucked in. Any breeze will increase the effect and the positioning of a photovoltaic panel on the top of the roof vent allows a fan to work on a day when the natural breeze is insufficient to power the normally passive system. The aim is both to cool the hot interior and maintain a maximum carbon dioxide range of 1,000 - 1,500ppm. In winter the dampers can be closed and opened bit by bit if the temperature sensors decide that the building is too hot, or the carbon dioxide levels are too high.

The Eydon Kettle

Eydon Kettle with fuel ready and Mug

Brew-ups from Prunings! can provide extra fun at your picnic or barbeque this summer. The Eydon Kettle is a clever device that has evolved from a copper kettle used by fishermen on the west coast of Ireland. Fuelled by whatever dry vegetation is to hand, including seaweed, this can be used safely in an open boat provided the fire box is stood on a flat stone to protect the wooden hull or indeed the grass of your lawn. This is a nifty carbon neutral gadget made in aluminium. The basic set-up comprises two units: the base is a circular fire box with a large hole in the side for lighting and air intake, and a lip around the top to take the base of the kettle unit. The kettle is unique in that it is double skinned with a central chimney and a second hole at the top into which the water is filled. Thus the water column is only a couple of centimetres or so thick - depending on the volume of the kettle - and surrounds the chimney. From lighting the fire to having 1.5pt of boiling water takes 6 - 7 mins. It can also be used in conjunction with normal camping pans placed either on an attachment above the chimney or on a wire grid directly over the fire box.

The Eydon company provide their kettle in a series of different sizes to suit one to a small group of people e.g. canoeists. I have found that 1.5pts can be boiled with two handfuls of 15cm sticks of pampas grass. These need to be broken in two to feed the fire by being dropped down the chimney, and the dried flowering tops make excellent kindling, for ignition without the use of paper. The only problem is smoking, but this can be avoided by stoking regularly so that there are always flames in the fire box. As soon as steam starts coming out of the water hole, stoking should be stopped as the residual heat will be enough for the water to reach a full boil. This means that one can stand clear to avoid being smoked in the latter stages. To fill the mug one just uses the combination of handle and bung chain - the bung is only to be used after boiling.

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Top Tips new and used

  • Ensure that your photovoltaic solar panels are also connected to your immersion heater. Thus any extra electricity produced during the day, is used to heat your water ready for the night when you need it. You will still get your FITs for every kW that you produce during the hours of sunlight; but instead of selling all your extra energy to the Grid for 4.3p/kW and having to buy it back at the current domestic rate from your supply company (don't forget to take account of their standing charges) you will be able to make fuller use of your own PV electricity. NB since the grid pays domestic suppliers for 50% of the kW that they produce, this is another winner, until of course they decide to meter the actual inputs to the grid! Do also remember to time domestic appliances so that they work during daylight hours whenever possible; and plumb the washing machine into the hot, or hot and cold, water supply, so that it does not heat any water unnecessarily. This is especially important if you have to do the washing in the evening.
  • When buying property ensure that: you know what the service piping layout is i.e. water & gas pipes and electric cabling either straight under the floors or around the edges of the rooms and under the doorways. Check that they have been appropriately lagged, both under floors and within walls. When leaks occur this knowledge will save a lot of time. If designing a new build, then it is well worth putting services behind a protruding length of skirting board, so that one does not have to strip each room in order to locate piping laid under chipboard flooring topped with fitted carpets. The more cost cutting at the building stage, the more frequent the failures and the higher the maintenance costs.
  • My gas checker man has just informed me that Gas Leaks in the house are permitted, when <4mbar. I spotted the leak only because I did not use any gas for 6 months. However, my meter showed a use of 2.89cum/quarter = 31.46kWh. This leak has probably existed for years. The positions of both pipes and leak are unknown; so the gas could be passing into the living space, or accumulating above or below the polythene under the flooring. Either way it is: a waste of energy; potentially bad for health; likely to increase when the gas is actually in use; & a waste of money. The problem cannot be rectified without exposing the pipes - under floor or plaster. If building or renovating property always ensure that the position of the pipes are known and easily reached.
  • Living in a 1980s air-tight bungalow, I have noted the reduction in solar heat penetrating the double glazing. This has lead me to note the indoor, outdoor and sunroom temperatures for the last week. These show that the indoor is stable all day losing an average of 1.1°C (2°F). The outdoor temperature has ranged from 2 - 5C° higher during the day; with the lowest sunroom temperature being 2C° higher on dull days rising to 5C° higher when the sun is shining directly onto it. Therefore, providing jerseys or fleeces are worn in the house, it is still possible to avoid using central heating and open the windows as the sun shines on to them. Sadly, this is an option only for those working from home.
  • Making the most of free solar heat. Although even argon filled double-glazed windows let in some heat when the sun is full on them, they cut out a lot of the incident solar heating leaving the inside of modern houses ‘freezing’ even on a hot summer’s day. This means that in the cool of the evening, the house is not pleasantly warm. The result is that a lot of people turn on their central heating even during the summer months = increased gas & electricity use and carbon footprint; nevermind the increased bills. The solution is to put a double glazed window on the inside of the window sill (either sliding or casement style opening inwards) and an ordinary single pane casement or sash window on the outside - in the normal position for a window. In the summer, or on a sunny winter’s day, the double glazed window can be opened, leaving the single glazed window on the outside shut. In this way the sun’s heat can penetrate and warm the house at the same time as keeping insects and any cool breezes out. The double glazed window is shut as soon as the sun moves off the window, thus trapping much of the heat inside. This avoids the use of central heating on a summer evening, and provides extra free heating in the winter.
  • Energy Saving in the Kitchen: the freezer part of a refrigerator or fridge freezer regulates its own temperature, so the dial inside your fridge only controls the temperature of the fridge itself. The lowest setting is adequate to keep Milk for 7+ days if the kitchen is cool; and the second lowest, or 2, is all one needs for the same protection in summer temperatures or when the kitchen is warm.
  • Use Energy Saving light bulbs; unless you feel that the small amount of mercury that they contain, means that they cause more damage to the environment than would be caused by the extra energy used by the plain filament type of bulb. The jury is still out as to which is worse for the environment. However, as LED lighting is improved, LED bulbs may take over, making this argument academic.
  • Save Electricity by switching off all filament bulbs as one leaves the room. The Energy Saving bulbs should be left on, unless one is not going to use the room for more than half an hour. Like all florescent lighting they use more energy in the starting up stage than they do per min. thereafter.
  • You can save on your Energy Bill this winter by heating only the rooms you are using, and turn the heating off in those rooms not currently in use. If your radiators are fitted with an adjuster giving a range of settings, then either use the frost setting for minimal heat, or turn off completely. This can be accomplished by removing a small plastic spiggot that fits into the holes around the underside of the adjuster. This adjuster can also be used to set the maximum heat that the radiator can achieve e.g. it could be used to prevent young children turning the adjustor around to the maximum setting, whilst playing with it.
  • Your Central Heating system continues to use electricity to pump hot water around the system once the required temperature has been reached and the burner has switched itself off. This circulation by the pump only hastens the cooling of the water and your rooms, walls and attic! Therefore,save electricity & hot water by turning the central heating off as soon as the gas or oil burner goes off. If you leave your system set to 'constant' a lot of both electrical and fossil fuel energy will be lost in this way. The boiler of my gas system tends to turn itself off after approximately 50mins, but the radiators will stay hot for another half hour and the room will stay warm for much longer before it is necessary to turn the heating on again!
  • Most modern appliances have built in clocks, but work perfectly well without the clock being set. So if you do not need it, then turn it off at the wall socket. Obvious exceptions are: a radio alarm clock; your central heating control if on timed; your TV, only if you are trying to record a programme; and your Oven, only if you want it to start to cook a meal at a certain time. However, for general use your oven and microwave does not need to know the actual time of day - a start time of 0.00h when you turn it on is all it needs to know and you do not need to laboriously set the exact time by your watch! The small amounts saved on each gadget soon mount up to a real saving over the year.
  • Invest in a basic Energy Meter. Those provided by many of the Electricity Supply companies have to be pluged into a socket and can give the company useful information on your usage. However, they do have to be plugged into your electrical supply and use a small, but extra, amount of electricity. The basic ones simply have a part to clamp around your supply cable to the house and a second display unit that runs off rechargeable batteries (use a solar battery charger). Encourage all members of the family to host the display unit in their own room, and to note the change in consumption when they use hair dryers, TV and computer etc.
  • Fan Ovens are not all that they are cooked up to be! - they do not save! I have had personal experience of both fan and ordinary ovens and the fan one has not saved on cooking time; dries out the top of baking without cooking the centre to the same degree; burnt the bottom of cakes as well as the top, by the time that the centre is only just cooked; blows out cold air to start with and then proceeds to blow hot air out into the kitchen! Plus of course extra electricity is used in operating the fan. Another fallacy often heard, is that with a fan oven one can do one's cooking at a lower temperature. However, this is simply not true as the temperature needed depends on the ingredients i.e. to seal the surface of roasting meat leaving the centre juicy one needs a temperature of 200°C (400°F) and the same temperature is needed for good pastry and baking with wheat flour. It is only the time that could be cut. But cooking biscuits in a fan oven recently proved my point yet again, as the time needed to cook the centre to the right degree of crispness, was enough to burn the edges of the biscuits at the side of the oven
  • Encourage your family to buy/make warm clothing that is also stylish. If they can feel happy in their warm clothes, then they will also be happy to wear them inside the house. Inturn, this will mean that the central heating will not need to be turned on as often.
  • If you have the luxury of a wood fire or stove (biomass burning stove) in your sitting/living room, then dedicate that as the warm room of the house and light the fire during the day. The grate can be kept warm overnight for a quick start in the morning by: putting on a solid lump of Elm or other very dense wood last thing at night, this will tend to smoulder away keeping the embers warm until the morning; or take some of the ash from under the grate and pour it over the fire; or put a shovel full of soil over the fire last thing. Traditionally fires were kept in overnight, by placing a sod on the top of the fire last thing. Remember that wood ash, unlike coal ash, is good for plants. It provides a source of readily available essential trace elements, and should be raked or dug into your vegetable patch.
  • Refer to the other Sections under Energy Saving and remember that a healthy house needs to have air circulation. If the circulation is not sufficient, then Oxygen levels fall, Carbon dioxide and water levels rise and damp becomes a problem.
  • Light in the darkness! How lovely to have bright summer light illuminating our homes once again. However, by fitting a Sunpipe through your roof, you could have a lot more daylight and sun reaching the darkest corners even in the winter. These are flexible, water tight and can be fitted to any roof. Being an air filled tube sealed at both ends they are pretty well insulated anyway. However, they are also fitted with an insulated screen that can be moved across for further insulation on dark winter nights. For further information click to Energy Saving/Building related & Other.

Please mention TigerGreen whenever you contact any of our linked Top Providers, Suppliers and Contractors.

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